Editorials & Opinion

The thing the EBU gets wrong about Eurovision and Americans

Eurovision and Americans, the 2 words don’t really seem to go together. I am the exception, I know. Look, I’ve been a Eurovision fan for so long I’ve forgotten what it was like before I knew the contest existed. It is easy for an American to be out of the loop on the Eurovision Song Contest. I know what you’re thinking— Americans are just bubble living bullies shoving our culture down everyone else’s throats. This is only semi true. There are plenty of malleable Americans just craving for some real culture but just don’t know where to start. I personally believe that an American Eurovision audience could grow and will grow… One day.

But as of now…

  1. We don’t participate.
  2. The show has been broadcasted in the States for only 2 years.
  3. The show is broadcast one time with maybe 1 reply on a cable network most don’t have or watch.
  4. Social media has put the contest on the map but geo-targeting has blocked ESC videos and Facebook’s algorithm has likely pushed Eurovision related posts on the periphery visible only to those really looking for them.

The EBU wants to expand to the States. They want more American fans of Eurovision, but I don’t know if I’m convinced the EBU really knows how to do this.

I discovered the contest in 2006—thanks to Lordi and was pretty much hooked from there. However, I know I am an anomaly. Being a former musical theater kid, I think I was predisposed to having some sort of affinity for the song contest. Most Americans I know that love Eurovision, at least like musical theater.

The most likely fans for the song contest in the United States would be the millions who tuned into American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent… etc. Those, mostly family, viewers would be entertained and I am sure hooked! However, they are most likely out of the loop on the magic that is Eurovision, even though it, yes, comes on TV in the US.

As a queer Black femme, I am an active member of the LGBTQ community in the States and am pretty aware of the large gay following Eurovision has garnered. This gay audience made up mostly of cis-gendered White men is the main fan base featured online and in ESC related publications. No, gay men aren’t the ONLY Eurovision fans but they make up a proportionally larger audience that is showcased in the press. There’s nothing wrong with this except for the fact that it is potentially blocking a huge audience of potential folks from falling in love with the Song Contest. People want to feel a part of something they seem themselves in. If the media shows one demographic more than others it is a miss. Showcasing the diverse audience that makes up the Eurovision fan base is a clear step in making the contest even more marketable.

The gay fan base was likely used to make the EBU think that Logo was the right home for the Song Contest. What they failed to realize was that the show would probably be better placed on a music channel or a public broadcasting channel. The Eurovision Song Contest isn’t historically a “cable” feature show in Europe so why would it be in the States?

LogoTV is a niche commercial television station. One of the hallmarks of the Eurovision Song Contest is the fact that the show appears of public television. The show is without commercials and is accessible to viewers without pricey cable subscriptions. With streaming taking charge I am the only person in my friend group with cable. THE ONLY.

What does that mean?

It means that to watch the song contest you’d have to:

  • Have Logo included in your cable subscription
  • Download the Logo app to stream the show
  • Travel to Europe to watch the show

But real talk, all the above is trash because if you don’t have Logo in the 1st place you wouldn’t likely stumble upon it. 

Eurovision and Americans, what is going wrong?

When the EBU announced that Logo would be broadcasting the Song Contest I was already in Stockholm. I was initially excited about the news. I thought, “finally my friends will know about this thing I’ve been obsessing over for years.”

I was wrong. What the EBU failed to mention about this deal with Viacom, was that the contest was about to become more niche than ever. YouTube began blocking content left and right! Videos of performances became secretive commodities only the most fervent fans and/or technical geniuses could find.

Once upon a time, Eurovision was something a person could stumble upon. After discovery, one could simply fall down the rabbit hole—a beautiful rabbit hole filled with euro-pop, high-notes, and colorful pleather. Now users see:

To make matters worse, the EBU isn’t sorry. They’ve made their deal and existing American ESC fans were left out in the cold.

“We’ve been working on the deal for many years,” Jon Ola Sand explained. With all due respect Mr. Sand, maybe y’all should have kept working.

The final and most deadly flaw about the deal the EBU made with Viacom is that there wasn’t a clause written up about promotion (clearly). For the last 2 years, the only promotions from LogoTV were late and haphazard at best. The Oscars begin promoting 3 months in advanced. Why is Logo promoting 2 weeks in advance? The Song Contest is a large scale production that is arguably bigger than the Oscars. So why is Logo last minute throwing things together?

How can one expect to have stellar ratings without ample promotion?  64,000 ain’t gonna cut it.

All in all, in their haste, to have the Song Contest broadcasted in the United States for Americans the EBU has made some critical errors in negotiating this deal.

There’s still time to correct this…

Streaming services are making waves AND generating money. I would recommend the EBU to pursue a deal with Hulu or Netflix. I think Hulu could be the perfect space to host interviews with the contestants, backstage glimpses, and rehearsal recaps. With a service like Netflix, folks could enjoy not only the big show but a thoughtful look back at the contest and its origins. I’d commission a documentary series (1-4 parts long) that details the history of the song contest from past to present. I’d release the documentary series 4 months before the contest to generate buzz about the latest installment. Finally, I’d broadcast the finale as a whole LIVE on Netflix (or Hulu—pick your poison) and then allow it to be saved for later viewing.

Pssst… You can see that I really want Eurovision and Americans to work out. 😉

Should American audiences have commentators?

My gut answer is no. This is still new for most Americans and I think we should be allowed to digest it without someone narrating what we’re are eating. That’s creepy anyway. Can you imagine? “Now she’s picking up the pear. She bites into it. She chews… She’s still chewing. I think she just swallowed.”

I digress…

I think commentators are a fun part of the show but for folks who are new, the commentary could prove too distracting overall. Also, the hosts that Logo has hired don’t seem to truly appreciate the show. Michell Visage was recently interviewed by Wiwibloggs’ William Adams and it is obvious that she thinks it’s s joke. William asks, “What do you love about the show to which she replies,”…How seriously they take it”

GIRL BYE!?! You should be taking it seriously too! #sideeye

People aren’t going to spend 3 hours watching a joke. 30 mins or maybe an hour could hook people in but 3 hours of something even the commentators are ambivalent about isn’t going to capture fans. BUT if Logo had someone on the ground interviewing the artists and giving a behind the scenes look from an American perspective in the build up— that would help. It would allow casual American viewers to build a relationship with the talent and the acts.

I love the Song Contest. I want more American audiences to discover it. I applaud the EBU’s efforts to bring it to American televisions… but we have a long way to go before WORLDVISION can even truly be a concept and not just a vision.

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